The one about confronting the mean

Does anybody take pride in being a mean person? I’m not talking about “I don’t take crap from anyone” “I don’t let anyone push me around and if that makes me mean so be it” kind of mean. I’m talking about the kind of person who dislikes people for no real reason. Who is not just jealous of other’s people success but actively hopes they start not succeeding. A person who smiles a little inside when something goes wrong for a person she doesn’t like. Maybe genuinely evil people take pride in their meanness, but most of us pretend those parts of us don’t exist. We push it down and put a smile on our face and pretend that we are nice. But that doesn’t change anything. The mean is still there. Silently waiting for an opportunity to jump up in front of your face and remind you that sometimes you are really not a nice person.

I had a moment like that today. A moment where the ugliness of my thoughts startled me. Did I really just think that? About another human being? What is wrong with me? It was like a mirror was held up in front of my soul and it was not a pretty sight. It always seems like those moments and thoughts come up right after I’ve decided to pat myself on the back because of how kind I’m being. I went out of my way to help somebody, or give somebody a kind word, I must be a really nice person. Look at how compassionate I am. Look at how good I’m getting at keeping my mouth shut. ¬†And then BAM I’m reminded of how far I really have to go.

I think the trick in confronting my “mean” is to walk the line between self flagellation over my mistakes, and letting myself off the hook too easily. I’m not the first person to indulge the side of myself that can be petty and jealous. We all do it, and we all do it way more than we probably like to admit. But, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s a part of myself I should be proud of or indulge myself in. The next time I start getting on a high horse about my own behavior I hope I remember the capacity I have to make the wrong decision, to hope for the wrong things, to indulge the mean. I am trying not pretend that the mean part of me doesn’t exist or that it is somehow not the “real” me. The same person who cares deeply about people and is very sensitive to the needs to others can also be rude, prideful, and yes mean. This doesn’t make me a bad person. It simply makes me a human being.

So here I am admitting it in the public square that is the blogosphere. My name is Janelle and sometimes, I’m a really mean person. I get jealous and worried that other people are going to outshine me. I think other people have it much easier than me. I dislike people for ridiculous reasons. I hold grudges. I get mad over silly things and I can be very impatient. The good news is I’m not afraid to confront my mean. The better news is that when I confront my mean I’m able to beat it, even if it’s only temporarily. But hey, I’ll take the small wins every time. Give me enough small wins and I’ll look back and see that I’m further than I was a month ago.

I’m not afraid of my mean. That isn’t all I am. I’m also capable of great warmth and compassion. When I love people I love them wholeheartedly, would do anything to help them, and root for good things to happen in their lives. I can be burdened with a need to help those I know have it much worse than me. I get over my ridiculous reasons for not liking someone. I admit that I’m mad about something silly and let my grudge go. When I confront my mean I free myself up to notice the good in myself too. I’m not either/or. I’m both. Today I was a little mean. That’s okay. Tomorrow is going to be different.

How about you? Do you confront the mean in your own life? Have you ever had a thought that startled you in its meanness? Leave your thoughts in the comments!